Today marked the start of two-a-days which will go on for at least this week (every other day I believe). With the first fall scrimmage coming up on Thursday the coaches are really pushing the players to learn their positions and plays all over the field so the depth chart that is still pretty fluid can be "finalized" a bit.
Other than a couple of offensive line spots, most of the critical starting spots are locked down at the moment, but there are a ton of backup spots being battled for all over the field.
The first practice this morning was spent focusing on special teams drills, with the exception of the offensive line (and QB's), which continued to work with Coach Himebauch on the far left field.
While I won't be able to attend the afternoon practice, which is where a more traditional practice will take place, I did get a few takeaways from this morning's practice that I found to be pretty interesting for the Deacs.
Click through the jump to get a brief recap of the practice this morning.
The main changes this year for not just Wake Forest, but all college football teams across the board are the kickoff rule changes. From the official NCAA website:
Next fall, teams will kick off at the 35-yard line instead of the 30. Also, players on the kicking team can’t line up for the play behind the 30-yard line, which is intended to limit the running start kicking teams used to have during the play.
Also, touchbacks on free kicks will be moved to the 25-yard line instead of the 20 to encourage more touchbacks. Touchbacks on other plays (for example, punts that go into the end zone, or fumbles that go out of the end zone) will remain at the 20-yard line.
This was noticeably different in watching the Wake guys practice today. With the extra five yards Jimmy Newman kicked it well into the endzone nearly every time, which would have resulted in a lot of touchbacks to the 25. It looked really strange for the guys lined up on the kick team not to really get a running start , which was clearly meant to cut down on the amount of injuries and hard hits that can result in serious injuries such as the Eric Legrand injury.
Personally I believe that this rule will benefit Wake Forest tremendously. The Deacs ranked 65th in the NCAA in opponent kick return average (with an average of 21.8 yards per kick return), 51st in kickoff average (63.89 yards per kick), and 38th in touchback percentage (18.31% of kicks were touchbacks).
So despite ranking above average in percentage of touchbacks, the Deacs were still below average in opponent kick return average.
The extra five yards that Jimmy Newman gains this year will cut down even more on the number of returns that opponents get, which will limit a weakness on our team from the past couple of years.
While those five yards might not seem like a lot, with touchbacks going to the 25 now, it gives the offense a bit of an advantage over the defense and a shorter field. That can mean a lot of yards over the course of a season.
Now for some bullet point thoughts from today's practice in particular:
- Brandon Terry and Jared Crump were held out of practice again today. Chase was watching as well. Didn't see Ramon Booi out there. Brendan Cross was back after a viral infection held him out of the first week of practice.
- Even though this morning was a "light" workout and focused on special teams, Zach Thompson, Mike Olson and Kevin Johnson continued to provide a good work ethic for the guys out there and were praised on more than one occasion for their hustle during the drills.
- Bud Noel is definitely in that same group and perhaps even a notch above it. He brings it in every single drill with 100% intensity as if he were in the biggest game of the year. Easy to see why he is so successful on the gridiron on Saturdays. Seems that a lot of the guys, especially in the secondary take after him on that this year.
- Terence Davis stuck out to me a couple of times when he was going up against the cornerback in pressing/jamming drills because of his ability to get away from it and run his route cleanly. That battle with Matt James to see who starts on the outside will be a good one to watch as the camp/season progresses.
- The drill taking place right in front of me was a punt blocking drill that utilized soccer balls being kicked by Alex Kinal and sending each player to block it using the correct technique. The coaches emphasized not jumping to block it, but instead stick out one hand and get in front of it. Right after they told the guys what they expected, Dom Gibson did what they called a "textbook" block. Kevin Johnson followed it up with one that was nearly just as good. Pretty high IQ guys to get it the first two times after the coaches told them what to do.
- Coach Himebauch loves to yell and he did plenty of it this morning to his offensive linemen. It wasn't all yelling at them, but rather just a high level of intensity throughout the practice. I love to see that, especially for a position as physical as the offensive line is every single play.
- The funniest moment of practice came when Randolph Childress was coming out of the Miller Center gym and Coach Galloway yelled at him that it was time for them to ball. Coach then demonstrated his air stepback jumper to which Jared Crump yelled from the wall "come on coach you can't ball man". Everybody enjoyed a pretty good laugh during that exchange between those three.
- I watched the QB's do some footwork drills as well as some throwing from the ground to use just the arm strength and get the right rotation. It is obvious that Kevin Sousa has excellent throwing power, but he has a ways to go on his footwork. It isn't that he really struggled with the drills, but compared to some of the other QB's he was a little behind.
- His skill setmakes me think that he has a special place for us this year. I think Brendan Cross is probably the best all-around second option, but using Sousa in unique formations could be something worth looking at if it might stretch out the defense a little bit. It is pretty clear that Sousa is extremely good at running the football from the QB position so that would be a cool wrinkle to see from the offense this year.
- It looks like Newman has been pretty good so far in the camp and I didn't see Alex Wulfeck punt today (may have and I missed it). Alex Kinal seems to be the starter for right now, especially since Wulfeck is nursing that leg injury. Poor timing for Wulfeck to come down with that. He was more consistent on the first day but in terms of leg power it isn't even close between him and Kinal. Kinal just needs to work on consistency and he could be a legitimate threat for the Demon Deacon team in the future.